15. The moral sentiments are typically calm rather than violent, although they can be intensified as a result of our awareness of the moral responses of others. 2. 3. 3 The Motive of Honest Actions Does this account resolve the circularity problem? Therefore reason alone cannot resist any impulse to act. ). 113: On the Independency of Parliament . Linked with these meta-ethical controversies is the dilemma of understanding the ethical life either as the “ancients” do, in terms of virtues and vices of character, or as the “moderns” do, primarily in terms of principles of duty or natural law. This essay is an attempt primarily to get clear on the important differences. 133: Of Superstition and Enthusiasm . 1. It is a hypothetical condition in which we would care for our friends and cooperate with them, but in which self-interest and preference for friends over strangers would make any wider cooperation impossible. Even if it were possible, this is not something that pertains to the present matter. In his short autobiographical "My Own Life", he says that the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is "incomparably the best" of all his writings (though he admits that he isn't the one to judge that). One approach is to construe ‘reason’ as the name of a process or activity, the comparing of ideas (reasoning), and to construe ‘morals’ as Hume uses it in this argument to mean the activity of moral discrimination (making a moral distinction). Plainly the impulse to act does not arise from the reasoning but is only directed by it. 3). 1 The Circle Hume offers a rather cryptic argument to show that our approval of material honesty must be the product of collaborative human effort (convention). W… The direct passions, which include desire, aversion, hope, fear, grief, and joy, are those that “arise immediately from good or evil, from pain or pleasure” that we experience or think about in prospect (T 2. Probable or cause-and-effect reasoning does play a role in deciding what to do, but we see that it only functions as an auxiliary, and not on its own. 1. But, Hume argues, it is absurd to think that one can actually bring an obligation into existence by willing to be obligated. 2. 2). The sole difference between an idea and an impression is the degree of liveliness or vivacity each possesses. Greed, and more broadly, self-interest, is the motive for inventing property; but we need a further explanation why we think of justice (adherence to the rules of ownership) as virtuous, and injustice (their violation) as vicious. While for Hume the condition of humankind in the absence of organized society is not a war of all against all, neither is it the law-governed and highly cooperative domain imagined by Locke. In his political essays Hume certainly advocates the sort of constitution that protects the people’s liberties, but the justification he offers is not individual natural rights or contractual obligations but the greater long-range good of society. Some read it as simply providing further support for Hume’s extensive argument that moral properties are not discernible by demonstrative reason, leaving open whether ethical evaluations may be conclusions of cogent probable arguments. The moral sense theorists (Shaftesbury and Hutcheson) and Butler see all requirements to pursue goodness and avoid evil as consequent upon human nature, which is so structured that a particular feature of our consciousness (whether moral sense or conscience) evaluates the rest. Passions (and volitions and actions), Hume says, do not refer to other entities; they are “original existence[s],” (T 2. 30). 4). The requisite mental act or mental state, though, could not be one of mere desire or resolution to act, since it does not follow from our desiring or resolving to act that we are morally obligated to do so; nor could it be the volition to act, since that does not come into being ahead of time when we promise, but only when the time comes to act. Indeed, our moral assessments of people remain stable even though our position with respect to them changes over time. Some see the paragraph as denying ethical realism, excluding values from the domain of facts. We use our own and third-party cookies to improve the browsing experience. He famously criticizes the notion that all political duties arise from an implicit contract that binds later generations who were not party to the original explicit agreement. Vices prove to have the parallel features: they are either immediately disagreeable or disadvantageous either to the person who has them or to others. And that he knew the simplest and universal principle in which you can solve and base your virtuous and original general principles for individual use. taken to imply the failure of Hutcheson and Hume’s moral sentimentalism as a whole. He also explains the social construction of the other artificial virtues and what social good they serve. And it ends bluntly: "...It is time for us to try a similar reform in all Disquisitions about morality rejecting any system of ethics that, however subtle and ingenious it may be, is not based on facts and observation". The second argument is a corollary of the first. Ethical Anti-rationalism * 5. As our society grows larger, we may cease to see our own property violations as a threat to the continued existence of a stable economic community, and this reduces our incentive to conform. The title, although certainly appropriate, may lead prospective readers to assume, wrongly, that the book is of interest mainly to scholars who specialize in David Hume. It is not simply by reasoning from the abstract and causal relations one has discovered that one comes to have the ideas of virtue and vice; one must respond to such information with feelings of approval and disapproval. They point out that Hume himself makes such inferences frequently in his writings. If it is taken to be opposed to miracles, then vice and virtue, just as everything else is, are as natural as can be, and this would be a trivial discovery. In it, Hume argues (among other things) that the foundations of morals lie with sentiment, not reason. Hume construes necessity to mean the same as causal connection (or rather, intelligible causal connection), as he himself analyzes this notion in his own theory of causation: either the “constant union and conjunction of like objects,” or that together with “the inference of the mind from the one to the other” (ibid. Therefore all actions deemed virtuous derive their goodness only from virtuous motives — motives we approve. The person I observe or consider may further resemble me in more specific shared features such as character or nationality. (As we have seen, for Hume evaluationof an actionis derived from evaluation of the inner qualitywe suppose to have given rise to it.) 5. 9. 4). The virtue of an action of this species would be established by its being done from this non-moral motive, and only then could an agent also or alternatively be moved so to act by her derivative regard to the virtue of the act. The motivating passions, in their turn, are produced in the mind by specific causes, as we see early in the Treatise where he first explains the distinction between impressions of sensation and impressions of reflection: An impression first strikes upon the senses, and makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or hunger, pleasure or pain, of some kind or other. The first he says follows directly from the Representation Argument, whose conclusion was that passions, volitions, and actions can be neither reasonable nor unreasonable. (If Hume has already used the famous argument about the motivational influence of morals to establish noncognitivism, then the is/ought paragraph may merely draw out a trivial consequence of it. This signalling is not a promise (which cannot occur without another, similar convention), but an expression of conditional intention. 1 The Circle * 10. Such disinterested uneasiness, and the concomitant pleasure we feel on contemplating the public benefits of adherence, are instances of moral disapproval and approval. 1. 2 The Origin of Material Honesty * 10. The will, however, is merely that impression we feel when we knowingly give rise to an action (T 2. 17). We find the character traits — the causes — agreeable because they are the means to ends we find agreeable as a result of sympathy. 9, 13). And he adds that even "the subtle Lord Shaftesbury " (who often quotes in his works) is not entirely free of it. However, these have some characteristics in common that cross all societies and all individuals. We distinguish which traits are virtuous and which are vicious by means of our feelings of approval and disapproval toward the traits; our approval of actions is derived from approval of the traits we suppose to have given rise to them. According to the dominant twentieth-century interpretation, Hume says here that no ought-judgment may be correctly inferred from a set of premises expressed only in terms of ‘is,’ and the vulgar systems of morality commit this logical fallacy. This interpretation does not rely on an assumption about the transitivity of causation and is consistent with Hume’s theory of causation. While even so law-oriented a thinker as Hobbes has a good deal to say about virtue, the ethical writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries predominantly favor a rule- or law-governed understanding of morals, giving priority to laws of nature or principles of duty. Secondly, it shows that “reason cannot immediately prevent or produce any action by contradicting or approving of it” (T3. 2); so while Hume is not explicit (and perhaps not consistent) on this matter, it seems that he does not regard the will as itself a (separate) cause of action.
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